By Hannah Hafter, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
“Whose land do you live on?”
It’s an uncomfortable question for those of us known as “settlers,” and one that we do not regularly have to face. Last year, as part of the UU College of Social Justice’s “Solidarity with Original Nations and Peoples” program, I had gone in considering myself someone whose eyes were open to the injustices done to the original peoples of the United States. As I stood on the rocky shorefront of the Salish Sea, listening to Lummi organizer Freddie Lane explain the history of this sacred site under threat, I realized that my knowledge barely scratched the surface.
I did not know that Federally Unrecognized Tribes lack government acknowledgement only because they never signed a treaty with the United States and they were never conquered. I did not know that the U.S. military’s very origins were in the domination and genocide of the original people of this continent. And I did not know the scale of the determination, cultural pride, creativity, and hospitality that we I would find among the Lummi leaders and organizers that invited us me onto their sovereign Nation.
Today, one of the most urgent challenges the Lummi people face is the struggle to prevent construction of an immense coal terminal on their sacred land at Cherry Point. Designed to facilitate export of some of the dirtiest fossil fuels, such a terminal—and the multiple rail lines serving it—would be disastrous to the land, water, and culture of the people who have lived there for thousands of years.
The UU College of Social Justice’s second annual journey, “Solidarity With Original Nations and People,” taking place from April 25-May 1, will not only introduce participants to this specific justice struggle; it will also empower us all to return to our own locations and look with new eyes on the history of the towns and cities where we live, and to find new pathways to solidarity with First Nations across the continent.
Ralph Solomon introduces participants to the Lummi Shellfish Hatchery on last year's journey.
Unitarian Universalists have demonstrated our ongoing support for the Lummi Nation’s struggle to preserve Cherry Point. Lummi Nation Council Member Jay Julius and Master Carver Jewell James spoke to a crowd of over 2,500 at last year’s Public Witness at our General Assembly in Portland, hundreds of us wrote to President Obama asking him to block the Gateway Pacific Terminal, and through Faithify we raised nearly $14,000 to for the Lummi Nation’s totem pole journey for climate justice and building solidarity among tribes along the coal train route.
By asking “Whose land do you live on?” instead of “Who were the Native Americans who originally lived in your city or state?”—which places First Nations peoples in the past—I am learning to decolonize the question, and my work for justice. I hope you will join me.
Please register now for this powerful program. Registration closes February 21.
Senior Program Leader for Activism
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
This post was originally published at Standing on the Side of Love.